Tanjore Painting: The Complete Guide, with Helpful Tips and Tricks

Senthil Vel The Complete Guide to Buy Tanjore Paintings

What You Should Know When Buying Traditional Tanjore Painting ?

The Complete Guide to Buy Traditional Tanjore Paintings

Bringing home a Traditional Tanjore Painting or “Thanjavur Painting” as it’s called in South India, is like bringing god into an empty temple.

There are plenty of websites and shops that sell Tanjore paintings, but buying a good quality and genuine Tanjore painting online is not an easy task. Not all expensive Tanjore paintings are genuine and not all cheap paintings are fake.

How do you know if you’re getting value for money? There are many things that you need to consider before you invest. Example, the 22K Gold leaf, is it genuine or fake?

A lot of customers don’t know what to look for when they’re buying Tanjore paintings online. They assume that all these paintings are the same, but there is a big difference between a finely crafted Tanjore painting and a low quality copy.

This article will explain the difference between the two in more detail so you can make an informed decision.

Senthil Vel R.S

Tanjore Painting Artist & Founder of International Indian Folk Art Gallery

Thanjavur, the temple city

Tanjore or Thanjavur is an ancient town in Tamil Nadu, India. It was the capital of the Chola empire during the 10th century. The Brihadeeswarar Temple is one of the most famous temples in Tanjore. locally known as Thanjai Periya Kovil. The temple city is also known for its vast tradition of carnatic music and classical dance.

Thanjavur, temple city in Tamil Nadu is a place where temples and shrines of varied Hindu deities and goddesses provide a serene environment.

The temples in Thanjavur are scattered all over the city and they are the perfect example of the Dravidian architecture. Some of the most popular temples in Thanjavur are Brihadeeswarar Temple at Tanjore, Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram, Mahamaham Tank, Chola Palace at Gangaikondacholapuram, Brihadeeswarar Temple at Gangaikondacholapuram etc.

Brihadeeswarar Temple in Tanjore, India is one of the most famous temples. It’s a temple dedicated to Shiva. It’s an active temple located in the middle of the city. The temple was built during the 12th century CE and is a part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with other Hindu temples from the Chola period.

Tanjore Paintings offer a taste of the serenity and permanence associated with Puranic scenes. These beautiful paintings offer a look into the scene as depicted in the Puranas, which provides some insight as to what might happen in those stories. With their lifelike illustrations, this collection is characterised by its alluring design.

Following the collapse of Maratha rule, the Chettiar community continued to support

Brihadeeswarar Temple in Tanjore, India
Brihadeeswarar Temple in Tanjore, India. Source: Wikimedia
King Serfoji Tanjore Painting Artist Arumugam, Ganesh Art Gallery
King Serfoji Tanjore Painting Artist Arumugam, Ganesh Art Gallery

Thanjavur artists. This is because the community was staunch Shaivites and would frequently promote Shiva themes which appealed to them.

It was during the Anglo-Mysore wars that many Britishers came into Thanjavur and were surprised by the flourishing arts community there. They became eager patrons of Thanjavur art. There are plenty of information about Tanjore paintings online, including videos.

The Birth of Thanjavur Painting

Thanjavur paintings are a part of the traditional South Indian folk arts. They are in the style of temple paintings, depicting scenes largely from Hindu mythology.

Tanjore paintings are a classical, South Indian folk art developed in the late 16th century in Thanjavur, also known as Tanjore in the Tamil Nadu state of India. These Tanjore paintings evoke a sense of timelessness with their alluring illustrations of God, Goddess and stories of Hindu mythology.

This ancient Indian folk art form traces its origin to Thanjavur, the capital of the erstwhile Chola Empire. Tanjore art takes its origin from the murals of the Vijayanagara period (1500-1600 AD) and acquired its robust forms, architectural details, and vibrant colors in this period.

The Maratha people of India, who had been practicing painting for centuries, found new ways to depict the human body and naturalistic landscapes under the guidance of King Serfoji II.

King played a particularly significant role in developing this artform.

Butter Krishan Tanjore Painting, Artist Senthil Vel
Butter Krishan Tanjore Painting, Artist Senthil Vel

Tanjore paintings were a result of the mingling of European and Indian styles in a lively fusion. The paintings had themes from Hindu mythology, European classical art, and Islamic art, which at times intersected with each other.

It has taken on its own look, enriched with intricate architectural designs and bright colors after being influenced by the murals from imperial era. The unique style of Thanjavur or Tanjore painting as known today, is known to have flourished in the Maratha court of Thanjavur between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Periyava Tanjore Painting Muthu Palani, International Indian Folk Art Gallery
Periyava Tanjore Painting Muthu Palani, International Indian Folk Art Gallery
Gajalakshmi Tanjore Painting, Artist Shoban Kumar, Geetha Priya Tanjore Arts
Gajalakshmi Tanjore Painting, Artist Shoban Kumar, Geetha Priya Tanjore Arts
Goddess Saraswati Tanjore-painting- Artist Shobankumar
Goddess Saraswati Tanjore-painting- Artist Shobankumar

Traditional Thanjavur Painting Materials - And How Are Traditional Thanjavur Paintings Made?

The process of creating a Tanjore painting takes eight steps:

  1. Thanjavur paintings are done on wooden canvases. The canvas for a Thanjavur painting is usually made out of a plank of wood (jackfruit or teak) which is pasted with cotton cloth using tamarind paste.

    • The face of a wooden canvas is evenly coated with a paste of lime and tamarind paste, which is allowed to dry. It is then polished and prepared for sketching. The process of preparing a canvas board for Thanjavur painting can take up to a week.

  2. Once the Thanjavur painting board is ready, the figures, mandapam, and all elements are sketched. Common themes are Krishna, Lakshmi, Ganesha, Venkatachalapahy (Balaji), and Radha Krishna. Of course, Thanjavur paintings are made with other Hindu, Non-Hindu gods and generic themes.

  3. After the sketching is completed for selected Thanjavur painting god, stones are fixed using limestone arabic gondu mix. The board is allowed to dry for a couple of days, then the stones are packed with a mixture of limestone arabic gondu mix. This is followed by drying, correcting, and cleaning.

  4. The next step in Thanjavur painting is intricate clay relief work. This process requires a lot of experience to perfect the art of creating extremely complicated patterns and designs for jewelry, dresses, mandapams. Tanjore paintings made of clay relief work are extremely hard wearing, and last for generations.

  5. This is followed by further detailing work is provided to jewellery, dressed and patterns using chalk gondu mix for Thanjavur painting.

  6. The relief work is allowed to dry for couple of days, the 22K Gold leaves are pasted using arabic gum. The gold foil is cut to expose stone work. The process of Thanjavur painting ends with correction and cleaning the board.

  7. The next step is colouring the figure, including background. The major part of this process includes colouring face and eye. Traditional artists, bring life to the Thanjavur painting on auspicious days only. This simply means drawing eyes.

  8. Final step is linework to create three dimensional affect shading. This is followed by fixing frame with glass.

The whole process can take 3 to 4 weeks for standard size painting and can take few months for large size paintings.

The skills needed to create a stunning Tanjore painting are passed on from one generation to the next. These are often tightly held secrets. Even within the family, the roles are distributed based on different stages of Tanjore painting.

Only a master craftsman would do the coloring, especially on faces to bring life to the Tanjore painting. Most schools do not teach traditional way of Tanjore painting online.

Tanjore Painting Cost - Why do we have so much difference?

  • There are four main categories of Tanjore paintings available in the market. The challenge is they are all promoted and sold as traditional Tanjore paintings.

    1. The first category is traditional Thanjavur painting made by traditional Thanjavur painting artists, either from the Raju and Naidu communities, whose ancestors were patrons of the great Nayak dynasty. These artists strictly follow the traditional methods and use traditional materials. Sadly, they are unable to compete in the market because of higher costs and newer generations are not taking up this art. There are only a few left in Thanjavur.

    2. The second category of artists is those who picked up Tanjore painting as a profession, working under traditional artists for a few years and are either second- or first-generation artists. These artists make what I call “commercial” Tanjore paintings. In most cases, they do not use traditional materials and are produced at a much faster rate and at a significantly lower cost.

    3. The third category is freelance artists, who have taken a short course (now mostly online) and sell mainly through social media.

    4. The last one is “fake” Tanjore paintings, largely imported and machine-made.

  • Most Tanjore paintings in the market today are primarily “commercial” Tanjore Paintings made to generate profit and meet the demands of customers. These paintings can be completed in much shorter time, with less expensive materials. However, they could look very similar.

  • Traditional Tanjore paintings use hardwood, while most commercial Tanjore paintings use a 6mm – 8mm plywood. The use of plywood reduces the cost by half, but reduces the strength of the canvas board by a third. The reliability of gold relief work is directly dependent on the strength of the canvas board for longevity.

  • Also, the other obvious difference is the use of PVA wood glue (commonly called “Fevicol”) for preparing the board. Typically, these boards can be prepared in a day. Wooden canvas boards made of tamarind seed powder have proven to last for many centuries.

  • The other not so obvious difference is the type of material used for relief work, also commonly called “mugh work,” which is commonly done with PVA wood glue (commonly called “Fevicol”) and chalk powder. Easy and inexpensive to source, compared to clay relief work.

Balaji Tanjore Painting, Clay Relief Work, Artist Senthil Vel
Balaji Tanjore Painting, Clay Relief Work, Artist Senthil Vel
Goddess Mahalakshmi – Tanjore painting-Deepa-Kannan
Goddess Mahalakshmi – Tanjore painting-Deepa-Kannan
  • The quality of gold is another big factor to manipulate the Tanjore painting cost. Artist can source 18K gold, 22K gold, silver with gold coating, and imitation gold to create Tanjore paintings. An average buyer will not be able to tell the difference.
  • Another factor that decides the price is artist’s skills, the beauty in artwork or the quality. The mudras (hand gestures), face, especially eyes must be drawn as per traditional methods, including smooth round figures, mudras, and almond-shaped eyes.
  • Sometimes price can change significantly when you want to customize Tanjore painting to your liking. Especially when you want to change the elements or custom size these paintings. Changes to color scheme in most cases has no impact on prices.
  • Finally, the most important factor is where you buy these paintings from. Directly from the artist, or through a website or through a dealer or gallery/showroom. Depending on where you buy, the price can vary by 10-50%.
Lakshmi Tanjore Painting, Artist Chandrasekar K, Rajlakshmi Arts
Lakshmi Tanjore Painting, Artist Chandrasekar K, Rajlakshmi Arts
Raja Rajeshwari Tanjore painting-Rajlakshmi Arts
Raja Rajeshwari Tanjore painting-Rajlakshmi Arts

Traditional Tanjore Painting - Why are they Popular Nowadays?

Tanjore paintings are popular nowadays because they provide a unique style that is different than other art forms. They also provide a meditative space for people to sit back and enjoy the beauty of the artwork.

Since Tanjore painting is a traditional art form, it has been there for many centuries. But in the past few years, it has been increasingly popular and has been gaining more attention from people who are interested in this unique art.

Tanjore painting is a unique art form because of the intricate detail that is involved in the paintings.  A technique where gold leaves & sparkling stones are used to highlight certain aspects of the painting like ornaments, dresses etc. The painting is bright and colourful and breathtakingly beautiful.

The artists hand paint each design with care and time to produce a beautiful piece that can be framed and put up on a wall. No two paintings are exactly the same.

The designs in the paintings are usually inspired by Hinduism and portray religious stories such as Lord Krishna, Lord Rama or Goddess Lakshmi. The temples would use these paintings to decorate their walls or pillars, or use them as offerings for worshippers to take home.

Tanjore painting has become famous because of its rich heritage and detailed work

Old Tanjore Paintings As a Long Term Investment

Traditional Tanjore Paintings have been a great source of inspiration for centuries. These paintings are an important part of Hindu temple architecture and culture. Tanjore paintings are an important part of Hindu worship and play a crucial role in most South Indian culture.

Traditional Tanjore paintings can be found in temples or places of worship, like puja room in many home.

Tanjore paintings are famous for their intricate details and colors, which were traditionally created using natural colors, 22K gold leaves, precious and semi-precious stones.

Each painting is treated as an artwork with its own story or message to tell. The finishing of these paintings also has a very high level of detail to make them beautiful, durable, and long lasting for generations to come.

If you can afford it, Traditional Tanjore paintings are an important asset in every household. They bring that original authentic rich and royal interior décor design feeling to your home, perfect for any living room. Absolutely loved by Indians, they are also in great demand in US, UK, Canada, Germany and France.

In some Hindu traditions, it’s customary for daughters or granddaughters to receive Tanjore paintings as gifts for weddings or when the couple moves into a new home to set up their puja room, a place for worship.

Since there is shortage of skilled traditional artists, there is always demand for Traditional Tanjore paintings, owning one can be considered as an investment because the price of these paintings is likely to go up with time.

Traditional Tanjore Paintings are made to last for centuries and they get passed from one generation to next. Investing in the right Tanjore paintings is a good idea for the long-term. They can be considered as an investment because they are worth more than the price of the painting after some time.

Traditional Traditional Tanjore paintings are also often bought by collectors, decorators and people who would like to add some traditional art in their homes.

Lord Shiva Tanjore Painting, Artist Senthil Kumar, Senthil Arts and Craft
Lord Shiva Tanjore Painting, Artist Senthil Kumar, Senthil Arts and Craft
Lord Vishnu on Garuda Tanjore Painting, Senthil Kumar,
Lord Vishnu on Garuda Tanjore Painting, Senthil Kumar, International Indian Folk Art Gallery
Goddess Parvathi with Ganesha and Murga, Artist Shanmugasundaram Meiyyar
Goddess Parvathi with Ganesha and Murga, Artist Shanmugasundaram Meiyyar
Lakshmi Narasimha Murthy - Tanjore Painting, Artist Shanmugasundaram
Lakshmi Narasimha Murthy - Tanjore Painting, Artist Shanmugasundaram

What should you consider when buying traditional Tanjore paintings online?

The tradition of Tanjore paintings is one of the most popular Indian art forms. Due to the ubiquitous reach of the internet, nowadays it has become infinitely easier to buy Tanjore painting online.

When you go online to buy a traditional Tanjore painting, keep in mind that not all websites are created equal. You want your Tanjore painting to be authentic, so it’s important that you find the right website.

There are many websites that claim they have the best Tanjore paintings for sale, but not all of them are authentic. So what steps should you take before you buy?

  • Find an online store with a large selection of different styles and approaches to traditional Tanjore paintings.

  • Ensure the online store has a way to communicate with the seller or artist

  • Ensure that they have customer reviews and testimonials available on google or on their website.

  • Make sure to read through the terms and conditions of any potential purchase before making a decision

  • If you exporting outside of India, does the company have export license and is legally registered to do so

  • Another consideration is shipping, unlike other artworks, Tanjore paintings cannot be rolled up and sent. The cost of the shipping could be significant.

  • Finally, reliable payment gateway that supports secure transactions

Traditional Tanjore Painting & How To Identify Genuine Traditional Tanjore Paintings?

90% of Tanjore paintings are not created the traditional way but are claimed to be made that way.

This is probably due to their lack of knowledge or an intentional misleading on the part of some sellers. Traditional Tanjore paintings are few and far between these days.

Making Tanjore paintings in the old way is a very time-intensive process, and as such most traditional artists cannot make a living from this work.

While this is a contemporary style of Tanjore painting that has evolved to cater to buyers, it’s unfair to those traditional artists who still follow the tradition. Especially, the Raja / Raju family of Thanjavur.

Unfortunately, most buyers and students do not know what they are buying, as both traditional paintings and contemporary versions look similar from the outside.

Through this program, we hope to provide some insight into the main differences between traditional Tanjore paintings and contemporary ones. Although both are genuine & beautiful Tanjore paintings, only one is a traditional Tanjore painting


In conclusion, we can say that Tanjore paintings are the product of many centuries of rich culture and tradition. They bring absolute joy and hope to many homes. If you are planning buy Thanjavur Painting Online, trust that this article provides you with insights and some basic information that will help you make the right decision.

Share your experience in the comments below or write to me if you need any assistance in choosing Thanjavur Painting Online.

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19 comments on “Tanjore Painting: The Complete Guide, with Helpful Tips and Tricks

Good detailed write up about how when and by whom tanjore painting are made. Also clear details of different types of material used and practices followed by traditional artist highlighting the value of tanjore painting.
Superb write up by R S Senthivel and Very useful for interested buyers.

Very well explained. All the details have been given. Senthilvel is a awesome guy who is very professional.

Excellent, informative and structured web-site. The guide is super useful for people who are planning to buy Tanjore paintings. Thank you for the efforts

[…] Read The Complete Guide to Buy Tanjore Painting […]

Excellent Information.
Huge appreciation for the efforts to promote folk art.
Kudos, keep it up..

Detailed explanation starting from Thanjavur and each and every details regarding the painting is well explained.
Never seen these kind to precise explanation

All you need to know about the greatest centuries old South Indian folk art that is here in this blog. Whether you are craftsman or new starter there are some invaluable information here explained well.

Excellent and very useful information for the people who wants to buy the Tanjore paintings. Very well explained Senthilji. I wish I should have known this information before. Thanks Senthilji for sharing the knowledge about our traditional art to the world 🙏🏻

Thank you Hema ji for your kind feedback

Very informative article about Tanjore Painting, detailing the difference between the modern and traditional way. I am always very thankful to Mr.Senthil Vel for teaching us the traditional way of Tanjore painting and for giving us a great insight about art as a whole. I feel blessed to learn this classical South Indian art from our guru.

Thank you Sangeetha for your kind feedback, appreciated

I need Tanjore materials

Hi Pavana Anup,

Could you please provide us more details of what you need and where it needs to be sent to. You can also reach us by WA +61414297179

Thank you

Excellent Presentations and Information.

[…] most buyers and students do not know what they are buying, as both traditional paintings and contemporary […]

[…] most buyers and students do not know what they are buying, as both traditional paintings and contemporary […]

[…] this has been driven by the commercialization and ever-growing demand for this beautiful artwork. I believe we will continue to see this market […]

are you selling the tanjor paintings

Hi Mr. P. Srinivasa, Yes, we do sell Tanjore paintings. You can contact on my Whatsapp: +61414297179 and I can assist.

Thank you


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